This study used a representative cross sectional survey to determine the prevalence of abusive behaviours by family carers of people with dementia. Participants were 220 family carers of people newly referred to secondary psychiatric services with dementia who were living at home. Participants were selected from community mental health teams in Essex and London. The main outcome measure used were psychological and physical abuse (revised modified conflict tactics scale). 115 carers reported some abusive behaviour and 74 reported important levels of abuse. Verbal abuse was most commonly reported. Only three carers reported occasional physical abuse. Abusive behaviour by family carers towards people with dementia is common, with a third reporting important levels of abuse and half some abusive behaviour. Results found few cases of physical or frequent abuse, although those with the most abusive behaviour may have been reluctant to report it.